Frustrations mount over bill eliminating DeKalb CEO job


Republicans who are a minority within DeKalb County politics have used their majority status in the General Assembly to push forward a bill that would eliminate the county’s unique CEO form of government.

Rep. Meagan Hanson, R-Brookhaven, said she introduced House Bill 961 as a general bill to circumvent a process that requires delegation support for local bills. She said DeKalb’s Democratic-controlled delegation has blocked previous attempts to dissolve the elected CEO position and efforts to create a charter review commission to evaluate the county’s governance structure has not moved forward either.

Hanson and Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Dunwoody, co-introduced House Bill 961 on Tuesday. When members of the House Governmental Affairs Committee arrived at their meeting on Wednesday, they learned the bill would be up for a vote.

Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, is on the committee and voiced her concerns over the way the bill had been fast-tracked without input from most delegation members and CEO Mike Thurmond. Only one of seven commissioners said she was told in advance.

“This is a bill that impacts 800,000 people, and none of those people including the elected officials directly impacted were given the courtesy of any printed notice,” Oliver said after the meeting. “This is the worst kind of partisan stunt that happens late in the session, and it’s very disappointing.”

The bill is now eligible for a vote on the House floor, which must happen by Wednesday for it to be considered by the Senate.

Usually, bills of local impact are approved first by smaller delegations before being added to the General Assembly agenda. Although HB 961 doesn’t require such approval, it only affects DeKalb as the sole Georgia county with an elected CEO. The bill would transfer the CEO’s duties to the chairperson of the county commission at the end of Thurmond’s term in 2020. The commission would then be free to hire a professional county manager to oversee day-to-day operations.

Commissioner Nancy Jester was the only local official to testify during Wednesday’s committee meeting. She said she learned of the bill that morning when Hanson asked her if she would come to the Capitol to share her long-standing opinion that the CEO position should be eliminated.

Jester told the committee that she believes many of the county’s issues over the years, including sewage spills and inaccurate water bills, are directly related to this unique form of government. She believes the county would be better served with a professional county manager hired by the commission.

Commissioner Jeff Rader, who serves as presiding officer of DeKalb’s board, said he didn’t know about the bill before the vote occurred. Neither did Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, who later questioned Jester’s motives.

“It’s evident to me that this was calculated,” Johnson said. “It was planned. There was manipulation. There definitely was no transparency.”

Thurmond has been credited with helping restore credibility to a position that has seen its ups and downs since Manuel Maloof became DeKalb’s first CEO in 1984. During Thursday’s meeting of DeKalb’s Senate delegation, lawmakers praised Thurmond for presenting a balanced budget, successfully advocating for a SPLOST tax and working to address many of the issues he inherited when he was elected in 2016.

Sen. Fran Millar, R-Atlanta, has advocated for eliminating the CEO job in the past but said Thursday that he works well with Thurmond and believes the current CEO has done a good job. Millar said he isn’t sure how he would vote on the bill if it were to pass the House and come before the Senate.

Thurmond said DeKalb residents should be allowed to decide if changes are needed.

“I think we should allow the voters to determine the future direction of our county and our government, not two or three individuals meeting at night under the cover of darkness,” he said.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

The AJC's Tia Mitchell keeps you updated on the latest happenings in DeKalb County government and politics. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in DeKalb politics. Subscribe to myAJC.com.





Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

DeKalb road closed for water main installation
DeKalb road closed for water main installation

On Monday, June 18, the intersection at Glendale Drive and McAfee Road, will be closed for approximately five days to two-way traffic to facilitate the installation of a new water distribution main, according to a press release. The repairs are part of the Glendale Drive Water Main Replacement Project. Detour and road closure signs will be placed in...
DeKalb roads closed for filming
DeKalb roads closed for filming

Planters Row between Travelers Court and Windsong Way will be closed to through-traffic beginning at midnight, Monday, June 18, through 11:59 p.m., Thursday, June 21, due to filming. The road will be open on weekends and residents living in the neighborhood will have access during the closure. A day later, Windsong Way between Kings Crossing to the...
More technical issues cause flight delays into Charlotte airport 
More technical issues cause flight delays into Charlotte airport 

For the second time in four days, technical issues impacted flights at the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. >> Read more trending news Some flights headed to Charlotte Douglas International Airport were delayed at airports across the country Sunday. Flight Aware, a website that tracks the status of flights across the country, reported a...
'All hell broke loose' during New Jersey arts festival shooting, witnesses say
'All hell broke loose' during New Jersey arts festival shooting, witnesses say

Witnesses said “all hell broke loose” early Sunday morning during a shooting at a New Jersey arts festival that resulted in the death of one of the suspects and injuries to 22 people. >> Read more trending news  “I saw two punches and then heard several gunshots,” Trenton resident Franco Roberts told The Trentonian...
Truck hits, kills 2 children at mudding event, GSP says
Truck hits, kills 2 children at mudding event, GSP says

Two children, 15 and 10 years old, were hit and killed at a mudding event in Middle Georgia when a driver lost control of his truck due to a mechanical failure, the Georgia State Patrol said. An 11-year-old was hit and injured in the incident Saturday night at the South Creek Mud Boggin’ in Milledgeville, according to the GSP. Shortly before...
More Stories